Luke 13:6-9

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

August 1, 2001

:6-9  Fruitful trees

:6 He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.

fig treesuke – a fig tree

vineyardampelon – a vineyard

plantedphuteuo – to plant

The main lesson behind what Jesus is talking about, is the nation of Israel.  They are often referred to as a “fig tree”.

In this sense, God is looking at the nation of Israel to see if it will bear any fruit.  Will it follow Jesus or not?

In the end, the nation will not bring forth the fruit of following Jesus and God will give them one last shot at bearing fruit, forty years from the death of Jesus until the destruction of the city of Jerusalem.


The goal is fruit.

The landlord was looking for fruit on the fig tree.
A fig tree is planted for its fruit, not because it looks nice.
Whether you are talking about fig trees, grape vines, or people, the point is the fruit.
Jesus said,
(John 15:4-8 KJV)  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. {5} I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. {6} If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. {7} If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. {8} Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

What is the “fruit” God is looking for in our lives?  It’s the results of having a living relationship with Him.

There is a sense in which “fruit” may be the lives of those we touch, those people that God uses us to lead to Jesus.

There is a sense in which we think of the “fruit of the Spirit” –

(Gal 5:22-23 KJV)  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, {23} Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

But the basic idea of “fruit” is that of letting God work in your life.

Is your life any different because of your relationship with Jesus?  Has Jesus changed your life?  Has Jesus worked through you to touch others?

God wants to see if you’re letting Him do any work in your life.

:7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?

the dresserampelourgos – a vinedresser

cut it downekkopto – to cut out, cut off; of a tree; metaph. to cut off occasion

cumberethkatargeo – to render idle, unemployed, inactivate, inoperative; to cause a person or thing to have no further efficiency; to deprive of force, influence, power

(Luke 13:7 NIV) So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'

A smart farmer isn’t going to let a fig tree take up space in his orchard when it isn’t producing any figs. A fig farmer isn’t trying to produce fig leaves, he’s trying to produce fruit.

The same applies to grape vines as well.

Jesus said,

(John 15:1-2 KJV) I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. {2} Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
A couple of years ago we planted two grape vines in our backyard. I wanted to see how hard it was to grow grapes. One of the things we’ve learned is that grape vines can grow like crazy. And if you don’t trim the “suckers” (the long, quick growing shoots), then all the good sap goes into the suckers and not into the fruit.
We’ve also had a hard time getting to taste any fruit the last two years because every time the fruit is about ripe, the birds get it! Pick the fruit when it’s ready!!!

The point is, if something isn’t bearing fruit, perhaps it needs to go.

:8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:

let it aloneaphiemi – to send away; to bid going away or depart; to let go, let alone, let be; to let go, give up a debt, forgive, to remit; to leave, go way from one

I shall digskapto – to dig

dungkopria – dung, manure. Here, literally, “I shall cast dung on it”. Fertilizer.

:9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

cut it downekkopto – to cut out, cut off; of a tree; metaph. to cut off occasion


Fruit indicates anointing.

During one period of their wanderings in the wilderness, a group of people became disgruntled with Moses and Aaron. They felt that Moses’ family had too much power and they thought that they were just as qualified to be priests as Aaron and his family were. The result was known as “Korah’s Rebellion” (Num. 16). The real issue was about answering the question, “Who does God pick for ministry?” There was a kind of showdown with each side offering incense before God. Some of Korah’s group swallowed up in the earth, some were consumed by fire from heaven, while Aaron’s offering was accepted.
But God wasn’t finished making His point.
(Num 17:1-8 KJV) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, {2} Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man's name upon his rod. {3} And thou shalt write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers. {4} And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you. {5} And it shall come to pass, that the man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you. {6} And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, and every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for each prince one, according to their fathers' houses, even twelve rods: and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. {7} And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness. {8} And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.
God was trying to make a point as to whom it was the He chose for the priesthood. God made His point by having Aaron’s rod bud, blossom, and have ripe almonds in one night. You might think the almonds are just “nuts”, but in a sense they are the “fruit” of the almond tree.
I think that one of the lessons here is that the person that God chooses will be a person who “bears fruit”.

There is a sense that if God has called you to a particular ministry, you will have some measure of effectiveness in that ministry.

If you feel that God has called you to be an evangelist, yet you never lead anybody to the Lord, it’s possible that you’ve missed your calling.

If you feel that God has called you to a ministry of helping hurting marriages, yet everybody you counsel ends up divorced, there could be something wrong.

Sometimes the fruit isn’t what you might expect.

He had a ministry that lasted through the reigns of King Josiah, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah, some forty years in length. He had some hard things to say to the nation. Did the nation pay attention to him? It doesn’t seem so. Did he have lots of converts? We don’t know of any. Was he called of God. Absolutely.

Ezekiel had the same type of ministry.

(Ezek 2:1-8 KJV) And he said unto me, Son of man, stand upon thy feet, and I will speak unto thee. {2} And the spirit entered into me when he spake unto me, and set me upon my feet, that I heard him that spake unto me. {3} And he said unto me, Son of man, I send thee to the children of Israel, to a rebellious nation that hath rebelled against me: they and their fathers have transgressed against me, even unto this very day. {4} For they are impudent children and stiffhearted. I do send thee unto them; and thou shalt say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD. {5} And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, (for they are a rebellious house,) yet shall know that there hath been a prophet among them. {6} And thou, son of man, be not afraid of them, neither be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns be with thee, and thou dost dwell among scorpions: be not afraid of their words, nor be dismayed at their looks, though they be a rebellious house. {7} And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear: for they are most rebellious. {8} But thou, son of man, hear what I say unto thee; Be not thou rebellious like that rebellious house: open thy mouth, and eat that I give thee.

God called Ezekiel to preach to a rebellious people who would not pay attention to him. He was supposed to be faithful and deliver the messages that God gave him whether or not the people paid attention to him.

Yet even for Jeremiah and Ezekiel, just because they did not have “converts” doesn’t mean that they didn’t “bear fruit”. They had another kind of fruit that proved their ministry. They prophesied and the things they prophesied about came true. Every time.

Concerning men who feel called to be pastors, Charles Spurgeon wrote,

“…there must be aptness to teach and some measure of the other qualities needful for the office of a public instructor. A man to prove his call must make a successful trial of these. I do not claim that the first time a man rises to speak he must preach as well as Robert Hall did in his later days. If he preaches no worse than that great man did at the first, he must not he condemned. You are aware that Robert Hall broke down altogether three times, and cried, “If this does not humble me, nothing will.” Some of the noblest speakers were not in their early days the most fluent. Even Cicero at first suffered from a weak voice and a difficulty of utterance. Still, a man must not consider that he is called to preach until he has proved that he can speak. God certainly has not created behemoth to fly; and should leviathan have a strong desire to ascend with the lark, it would evidently be an unwise aspiration, since he is not furnished with wings. If a man be called to preach, he will be endowed with a degree of speaking ability, which he will cultivate and increase. If the gift of utterance be not there in a measure at the first, it is not likely that it will ever be developed.”

(Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, pg.25)

If God has called you to do something, there ought to be some kind of fruit.


Sometimes you have to stop.

For some of the things that we become involved in, if these things don’t bear fruit, perhaps it’s time to let it go.
Often in churches, a particular program gets started, and long after the program ceases to be effective, the leadership is still trying to keep things going, mostly for the sake of sentimentality.

This is one of the things I appreciate about Pastor Chuck. Years ago, during the Jesus People movement, one of the big “things” in Southern California Christianity was the Saturday night Maranatha Concerts at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. Thousands of people came to the Lord through these concerts. But after about ten years, the concerts didn’t seem as effective. I don’t know all that went on behind the scenes, but at one point Pastor Chuck called a halt to it.

Things changed. Times changed. What was effective once was no longer effective. Does this mean that Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa stopped all evangelism? Not at all. Later God put it on Chuck’s heart to start the Harvest Crusades. Do you think that’s been effective? Absolutely.

For those of us involved in various ministries, it doesn’t hurt from time to time to step back from your ministry, look things over and ask God, “Do you still want me doing this?”

For some people, the real question is, “Was I supposed to be doing this in the first place?”
Sometimes we can talk ourselves into thinking that God is calling us to a particular ministry when He isn’t. I believe that from time to time people get involved in certain ministries that shouldn’t be there.
In regards to men who want to be in the ministry, Charles Spurgeon writes,

“One brother I have encountered—one did I say? I have met ten, twenty, a hundred brethren, who have pleaded that they were sure, quite sure that they were called to the ministry—they were quite certain of it, because they had failed in everything else. This is a sort of model story :—“Sir, I was put into a lawyer’s office, but I never could bear the confinement, and I could not feel at home in studying law; Providence clearly stopped up my road, for I lost my situation.” “And what did you do then?” “Why sir, I was induced to open a grocer’s shop.” “And did you prosper?” “Well, I do not think, Sir, I was ever meant for trade, and the Lord seemed quite to shut my way up there, for I failed and was in great difficulties. Since then I have done a little in life assurance agency, and tried to get up a school, besides selling tea; but my path is hedged up, and something within me makes me feel that I ought to be a minister.” My answer generally is, “Yes, I see; you have failed in everything else, and therefore you think the Lord has especially endowed you for his service; but I fear you have forgotten that the ministry needs the very best of men, and not those who cannot do anything else.” A man who would succeed as a preacher would probably do right well either as a grocer, or a lawyer, or anything else. A really valuable minister would have excelled at anything. There is scarcely anything impossible to a man who can keep a congregation together for years, and be the means of edifying them for hundreds of consecutive Sabbaths; he must be possessed of some abilities, and be by no means a fool or ne’er-do-well. Jesus Christ deserves the best men to preach his cross, and not the empty-headed and the shiftless.”

(Charles Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, pg.35-36)


Limits to quitting

Don’t take this parable as a reason for quitting your marriage.
Don’t take this as an excuse for quitting life.
Even if God is calling you to “quit” on something, keep in mind that it isn’t necessarily forever.
In the main lesson of this parable, Israel is the fig tree.  Even though God allowed the nation of Israel to be “cut down”, it wouldn’t be forever.  God would one day restore the nation.


Don’t quit too quickly

Before you let some things go, it’s proper to give them “one last chance”. Throw a little “fertilizer” around and see what happens.

Fertilizer and strawberries

A farmer was driving along the road with a load of fertilizer. A child playing in front of his house saw him and called, “What are you hauling?” “Fertilizer,” the farmer replied. “What are you going to do with it?” asked the child. “Put it on strawberries,” answered the farmer. “You ought to live here,” the child advised him. “We put sugar and cream on ours!”

I’ve heard a common story among Calvary pastors who planted new churches. After a year or two with a small, struggling church, the pastor reaches a point where he wants to quit. I’ve heard Skip Heitzig tell of getting discouraged and calling up Pastor Chuck and telling him that he thought he would call it quits. Chuck’s response has been pretty standard over the years. “Perhaps you ought to just give it six more months” he’ll say.
Sometimes we reach a place in our lives or our ministry where we want to call it quits. And perhaps that is exactly what we ought to do. But sometimes what we need to do is to just give it a little more time.  Give it one more try.
In the parable, the farmer told the landlord to give it one more year.
The effort wasn’t open ended.  There would be an end to it.  But there was one last chance given.